A traditional end-of-winter celebration
Frightening, devil-like creatures wearing horned wooden masks and big sheepskin costumes make quiet a racket every year during carnival season in the otherwise peaceful city of Mohács. The men in the masks, called Busós, attempt to scare off winter and welcome spring, following an old ritual dating back to the 18th century.
Busójárás is only celebrated in the town of Mohács, located on the banks of the Danube. It’s held each year towards the end of carnival season, from Thursday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Masquerades, music and dance performances, gastro events and handicraft fairs are all part of the festivities, but the main attraction remains the parade of the Busós' on Carnival Sunday.
They arrive in rowboats on the Danube and take to the streets making noise with cowbells and wooden noisemakers, bidding farewell to winter. Their helpers, the 'Jankele', are groups of children roaming the streets, dressed in rags and wearing stockings for masks. As night falls the celebrations wind down with a huge bonfire in the main square. A coffin, symbolizing winter, is burned on a bonfire while the Busós dance in a circle and become louder and louder. By this time winter has probably already left because it's hard to believe it would want to stick around any longer.
Busójárás also celebrates the victory over the Turks in 1687. Although the Croatian minority, who established the tradition, arrived in Mohács about ten years after the Turkish army was defeated, legend has it that the villagers of Mohács scared away the Turks wearing frightening-looking wooden masks.
Today the festival, an emblem of the city, is acknowledged by UNESCO and is under protection as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Each mask is uniquely carved and painted and is considered hand-made art. The mask making skills, just like the Busójárás tradition, are passed on from generation to generation.
The 2016 Busójárás Festival takes place between February 4 and 9. The parade is held on Sunday, February 7th, in the afternoon. The entire program can be viewed here.
Getting to Mohács:
Mohács is about a two-and-half-hour drive from Budapest. Highway M6 is the quickest route. Buses leave from the Népliget bus terminal.